It looks like Robert Mugabe’s reign of terror in Zimbabwe is coming to an end. While the African leader may be departing soon (hopefully), it will take years, or even decades, to make a hole in the homelessness and economic crises he created.
The economic destruction of Zimbabwe is appalled by all around the world. A major part of the crisis is the massive homelessness situation that Mugabe created. Mugabe was ruthless. He would routinely destroy entire suburbs and townships. The infamous bulldozings of June 2005 spring to mind.
In this particular confrontation, Mugabe claimed he was destroying the houses because they were illegal. The reality was because he feared opposition. In Hatcliffe Extension alone, 3,300 houses were totally demolished, leaving 20,000 people homeless. The reason was unclear, but it is believed it was to send a message to a small number of opponents.
During the first week of June that year, Mugabe demolished 15 entire townships around the capital of Harare, including Highfield and Kambuzuma. He claimed these settlements and houses were “illegal”, and particularly targeted a housing scheme named after his opponent, the late nationalist leader Joshua Nkomo.
These urban clearances are almost identical to the demolition of “illegal” townships carried out by South Africa during the apartheid era. The difference is that, in South Africa, the demolitions were fiercely opposed. In Zimbabwe, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) did little about it, claiming it was not their responsibility to do anything.
It can only be hoped that the MDC, which now looks set to move into power, will make amends to the hundreds of thousands of people made homeless by Mugabe’s exploits.